That’s all I have to say about a youth friend of mine from a community I work with in northwestern British Columbia. Sonya Tamara May Patrick, 16, from Burns Lake, along with 5 other young people, won a contest the Carrier First Nation of Lake Babine hosted for their youth to write about what their language, neduten, means to them and the entire nation.
The prize? Attending the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education in Australia! And to top off that life-changing opportunity, touring with the Maori for their educational tour the following week in New Zealand.
The conference will be held on the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation, in Melbourne, from December 7th to 11th. It will be a celebration of our diverse cultures, traditions and knowledge.
So why did she decide to write?
“I wrote the essay because our language itself is symbolic to our nation, and that knowing our language and speaking it in another country would show that we still have our pride. We are really so proud of it, residential schools tried to ban our language, but they failed, and knowing that we survived through it keeps it and us alive, and it is still very strong. I would like to learn our language while we have our Elders, because we as youth need to realize we are losing our elders fast and need to take advantage of learning our language when we can. It’s so important.”
The World Indigenous Peoples Conference: Education (WIPC:E) is a triennial conference of international significance that attracts peoples from around the globe to celebrate and share diverse cultures, traditions and knowledge with a focus on world Indigenous education. The purpose of WIPC:E is to provide a forum to come together, share and learn and promote best practice in Indigenous education policies, programs and practice.
Oh, and she found out that she won while she was assisting to run another important conference in her community this past summer, Healing Our Spirits, that promoted health and wellness intersecting the importance of culture.
Go Sonya go!